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Moscow zoo: creatures great and small

Published time: May 21, 2010 23:00
Edited time: May 21, 2010 23:00

A fairy-tale style entrance in the heart of Moscow, more than a thousand species of animals and an amazing history full of hardships – all this refers to one of the biggest and oldest zoos in Europe, the Moscow zoo.

The place where children and adults alike find rest and amusement is celebrating its 146th anniversary. The zoo was opened on February 12, 1864 as a zoological garden at the initiative of the Russian imperial institute for acclimation of animals and plants.

One of its founders, Professor Anatoly Bogdanov, called it “a living museum in the open air.”

In the Soviet-era Moscow zoo (Photo from
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It was no mere chance that the zoological garden was located in the center of the capital. It was one of the favorite walking spots in Moscow, with green hills, meadows and ponds, easily accessible for every strata of society.

Back then, the zoological garden was home to about 300 species of animals, with Russian fauna the most numerous of all those on display.

The zoo went through hard times during the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and World War II, although it never stopped its work. During the war, when bombs were falling on the zoo, the staff kept vigil over the animals around the clock.

In the 1990s, the Moscow zoo was reconstructed and many new exhibits were opened.

Now visitors can see about 40 expositions there, and the zoo also offers excursions and lectures. Outreach activities alongside the scientific and research work have been the hallmarks of the Moscow zoo from its very foundation.

An elephant shrew
For children, the zoo is a place of special interest, as they can attend the kids’ biology circle, the children’s theatre and numerous youngster-oriented festivals.

If you want to try and feel like a real “patron”, you can sponsor one of the zoo’s animals. The scheme is simple – you pay for the animal’s food and keeping, and there will be a plaque on its cage acknowledging your role efforts.

The list of species of animals yearning for your care – and your financial aid – is really impressive: from Himalayan black bears to pygmy lemurs, and from elephant shrews to real elephants.